Staying true to his environmental deregulation campaign pledge, President Trump signed an executive order at EPA headquarters Tuesday which starts the process of rolling back at least 23 Obama-era federal actions related to climate change and the energy industry.
Trump’s “Energy Independence” directives attempt to cancel the EPA’s Clean Power Plan — requiring states to decrease the carbon emissions of electricity sources; reopen federal land for lease to coal production companies; eliminate regulations on oil and gas drillers limiting methane emissions and protecting ground water exposed to hydraulic fracturing; and reverse the universal “social cost of carbon” rule, which requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of new policies and building permits.
In addition, Tuesday’s order also requests all government departments and agencies to review internal rules and regulations within 180 days that effect America’s energy sector and eliminate those which are deemed to constrain economic growth.
Following the announcement, 23 states and local jurisdictions issued a statement condemning the order, vowing to oppose “in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change.”
The coalition, led by New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, also includes the states of California, Virginia and Massachusetts, as well as Chicago, Philadelphia and Boulder, Colo.
While Trump’s sweeping executive order could have devastating effects on America’s air, land and water, the elimination of environmental regulations throughout the federal government will likely take years to complete. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, for example, has yet to even go into effect due to a lawsuit, currently in federal appeals court, brought by dozens of states after its issuance in 2015.
“The order itself accomplishes virtually nothing directly,” said Richard Revesz, director of NYU’s Institute for Policy Integrity. “It will be implemented through the regulatory process. But any such efforts are going to be very cumbersome and will be tied up in litigation for a long time.”
Legal challenges to Trump’s order began on Wednesday, when southern Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Tribe filed suit against the U.S. government in district court for not consulting with Native Americans or conducting an environmental study before lifting the ban on federal coal leases.
According to the Cheyenne tribal council, there are approximately 426 million tons of coal in mines adjacent to their reservation. A letter sent to Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke in March asking to meet and discuss the new policy was ignored.
“The Northern Cheyenne rarely shares in the economic benefits to the region generated by coal industry and other energy development projects,” Jace Killsback, the tribe’s chairman and president, said in a statement.
However, another native Montana tribe, the Crow Nation, has openly lobbied for federal land to be opened for coal mining due to economic benefits essential for their people.
Despite the short-term monetary gains environmental deregulation may garner in the U.S., climate scientists, such as Duke University’s Drew Shindell, argue such pro-fossil fuel policies could backfire economically.
“U.S. companies will fall steadily behind the rest of the world where work will continue to aggressively improve efficiency, renewable technologies, electric vehicles, etc.,” he said.
“In the long run, U.S. companies will have a harder time selling their wares overseas if we stop accounting for ‘social costs’ and take other such actions to weaken our push toward environmentally friendly technologies.”
Editor’s note: Sixth paragraph has been corrected as to the date of the Clean Power Plan’s implementation.
[Reuters] [The Hill] [Climate Central]